Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Outrunning The Tiger

Two men are walking through a forest.  Suddenly they see a tiger in the distance, walking towards them with an intent look on its face. One of the men takes some running shoes from his bag, and starts putting them on.
“What are you doing?” asks the other man. “Do you think you will run fast than the tiger with those?”
"I don’t have to run faster than the tiger,” he says. “I just have to run faster than you.”

This joke is told all over the world, with the hunting animal variously a lion, a bear or, as here, a tiger. There is a reason it is so widespread. It's funny and it's also true.

It's the reason that US homeowners, even in low crime areas, are often advised to get a big, serious dog, and that apartment dwellers are advised to get a teeny, yappy dog.

It's the reason that seasoned American travelers do not walk around the world wearing gunboat-white athletic shoes, elastic-waist yoga pants, and T shirts or sweatshirts with any logo at all emblazoned on the chest. It's the reason that they talk and behave quietly in public.

It's the reason that a wealthy European might own an extremely fancy car for weekend touring, but will commute in a banged-up, ten-year-old VW or bottom-of-the line Fiat.

Quick. Which of these two cars is most likely to be driven by someone worth kidnapping?
It's the reason that AID's Laurence Foley - rather than someone else - was murdered in Amman. He had personally harmed or offended no one, but men like him, in his neighborhood, had been targeted before; he parked on the street; his movements were highly predictable; he was American.

It's the reason that experienced consular officers, whose faces may be especially well-known in some cities, don't mind in the least being quietly, distantly and discreetly followed by plain-clothed cops. Madam has been followed by such gentlemen in many countries on several continents, and always welcomed the additional safety and freedom of movement they provided.

 It's the reason that US embassies all over the world, not just in very hot spots, warn their American and local employees and American expat populations to stay alert, stay wary, and not call attention to themselves, their homes, or their families.

There will always be exceptions and outliers, but the numbers are on the side of the possible prey who moves quietly and warily, or who makes it inconvenient to bother with him when there are slower, less alert, or less well guarded targets nearby. We will never stop crime nor criminals, but we can certainly make them work harder to get to us and ours, so they will look for easier victims.

To offer a slight adjustment to Ecclesiastes: The race isn't always to the swift nor the battle to the strong nor survival to the careful, but it's sensible to bet that way.

The tiger will eat. There is far more than luck, fate or bravado involved in avoiding being that next meal.


The Warpiper said...

In Vietnam when I traveled in "sensitive" provinces, I enjoyed my "minders". I even bought them coffee from time to time.

(Vietnam isn't really dangerous, but I am fairly certain our minder in Da Lat once kept pickpockets away from us)

Anonymous said...

We aren't always taught how to treat our minders. If they are obviously assigned to you, then by all means buy them coffee. If they are supposed to be invisible to you, then pretend you don't see them, but gaze past them in such a way that acknowledges them, signals trust, and promises to make the job easy by your not doing anything rash, smart-alec, or stupid. For example, you won't wave at them, talk to them, put on or remove a hat without doing it very clearly and slowly, or make sudden movements. Like if you're going to step into a subway car or bus and see, from the corner of your eye, that he won't make it, then stop, bend down, and pretend to tie your shoe.